Bishop David Atkinson: Climate and Covenant

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The climate is changing, and there is now a very high confidence by an overwhelming majority of scientists that human activity is a significant part of that change. The global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased markedly since 1750 and now far exceed pre-industrial values. Much of this is due to fossil fuel use, changes in land use, and agriculture.

The effects of global warming are increasingly well known. Changing weather patterns such as hurricanes and floods; the melting of the glaciers; the softening of the permafrost; the melting of the polar ice-caps and the ice on Greenland; more intense and frequent heatwaves; the growth of the deserts and consequent likelihood of famine in some areas; the rise in sea levels; the death of the coral reefs. Countries like the Maldives and Bangladesh may disappear under water. There will be a huge movement of migrants from these countries to more habitable parts of the world.

Climate change is real, is growing, and has potentially very dangerous consequences for the well being of the planet and for human life - and the people most affected will be in the poorest and most disadvantaged parts of the world. There is therefore a strong moral imperative to do all we can to avert the danger, reduce the likelihood of global warming continuing at the present rate, and prepare for its likely consequences. There is a moral obligation also on the present generation not to do things which will significantly damage the planet's capacity to provide a home for our children and grandchildren. There is a further moral obligation to live within our means. At present rates of energy use and consumption in Britain, we need about three planet earths to sustain our current way of life.

But global warming is changing more than the climate.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchClimate Change, WeatherReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEnergy, Natural Resources

Posted August 2, 2007 at 7:46 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. VaAnglican wrote:

This is what happens when those in one calling, however well intentioned, stray into areas that aren’t ones in which they are expert.  The problem is not as simple as the good bishop would want his reader to assume.  He assumes that the prevailing wisdom (which is starting to change, interestingly) about climate change being caused by man is undeniably true and not subject to debate.  He ignores the considerable minority who take issue with man’s being a major contributor to this warming, when CO2 levels are actually lower than they were when the earth was cooler earlier this century and solar activity appears to play a greater part than many at first considered.  There is a belief here that global warming is an inexorable trend (unless we as uber-mensch stop it), and not cyclical, as it has been throughout the history of the planet.  There is also the assumption that a warming of the planet will be a net negative—ignoring that new resources may be opened up, that new food supplies to feed the hungry may become available, and so forth.  There is an ignoring of the human costs of curtailing industry—the poverty and hunger that would result if we ignored the (God-given) technology that has already and can still improve the lot of our fellow human beings.  There is, of course, a certain man-centeredness in this perspective that itself should itself give pause to the Christian—inflating our sense of power that we in fact are able to cause climate change such as that described—or are able to stop a change that may well be a natural, cyclical phenomenon.  C.S. Lewis warned about “chronological snobbery,” and there’s quite a bit of that evident among the global warming folks.  Certainly the Christian must be a good steward of the garden God has entrusted to our care.  But it’s not as if there’s only one way of looking at this problem, as the bishop would have us believe.

August 2, 8:25 am | [comment link]
2. scott+ wrote:

My field in not environmental studies, but I have practices engineering and science for more than thirty years.  This whole discussion of global warming has the look smell and taste of the academia liberal orthodoxy.    There is a lot of grant money out there to study global warming. 

I have read some of the studies.  The conclusions, at least as reported by advocates and the media are to say the least over statements.  While by it very nature, life sciences, and environmental studies have lower acceptable limits of statistical confidence, some of these studies which are shown as conclusive, hardly say anything.  Instead of saying, we see this trend, which should be watched, we see reports of impending doom.

As a priest, I will agree with the Bishop to the extent that we should take care of God’s creation.  I remember a local river being on fire from the material dumped by a local chemical company.  That was not right.  On the other hand we have God permission and instruction to take dominion over the world.

How many millions of peopled died because of questionable science.  It is clearly in the million if only from the banning of DDT.  Here is a case of very questionable science to begin with.  The error continued as they took this questionable science into a full fledge panic.  Looking back, the data suggested, (it is not conclusive) that general use of DDT in large scale spraying operations was not such a good idea.  That it should be banned was never supported by the data.  Even if the environmental panic had merit, the public health aspects of using DDT were a morally overriding principle. 

Let us not have generations of people who do not see the advantages of the modern world because of questionable science.  Let us not repeat letting million of people die because the best method to say them might kill a few birds or fishes.  On the other hand we are charged to take dominion of the earth which means stewardship not abuse.

August 2, 9:20 am | [comment link]
3. scott+ wrote:

My computer is in being fixed and I am using other one for a few days.  It has a different key board.  It is 0520 local and I am not sleeping.  The above has a lot of typos even for me.  I did not clip the last paragraph.

My grandfather used to say, figures do not lie, but liars figure.  This is a good observation to remember. 

Yours in Christ,


August 2, 9:29 am | [comment link]
4. APB wrote:

As a retired PhD physicist with some experience in the area of geophysics, reading the good bishop’s comments is a painful example of C.S. Lewis’ comment that clergy are trained to care for those of us who are going to live forever, and that we do them an injustice in expecting them to provide leadership in secular matters beyond their competence.  Properly Fisking this, including the true state of the scientific knowledge, is well beyond the scope of this blog.  Note that I am not saying that anthropogenic warming does (or does not) not exist; merely that the picture is not remotely a simple as portrayed, and that contrary physical processes which were not widely known when the Kyoto Treaty numbers were scribbled on a cocktail napkin are calling into question the “settled science” of the politicized version.  As an example of that, consider the Hockey Stick so widely known.  Now, Google “Wegman Report.”  Download, digest.

August 2, 10:14 am | [comment link]
5. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

The view generally in the UK, along with much of the rest of the world is that there may well be something in this and even the government’s chief scientists have come to this view - and they are the last ever to admit anything.

However wherever you stand on this issue, as Christians should we not adopt the aim of taking the best care we can of our world in line with the stewardship which we were granted by God in Genesis 1:26 ?

That’s how I prefer to think of it.

August 2, 11:00 am | [comment link]
6. azusa wrote:

Atkinson has a PhD in chemistry & has written some fine expositions on Genesis 1-11 and Ruth. His background is conservative evangelical, but he has gone liberal (on ‘pastoral’ grounds, like Lewis Smedes) on homosexuality.
As for ‘anthropogenic climate change’, I really don’t know what to think. It’s very slippery concept with so many variables and gray areas.

August 2, 11:30 am | [comment link]
7. Pb wrote:

One of the remarkable signs of our times is that expertise in one area qualifies one to be an expert in other areas. Look at the opinions of film stars. Weather patterns change and we are undergoing change. I guess fossil fuels in the form of camp fires ended the last ice age.

August 2, 11:54 am | [comment link]
8. DonGander wrote:

Too much protest - too many assertions of truth. Sounds like propaganda.

There is yet (that I know of or heard of) no computer models that include water in its various forms. Water is by far the greatest greenhouse gas of all - far exceeding CO2 in its effect.

Global warming is yet a new jump into a modern version of fear and superstition. When I was in school I was told that the superstitious erra was over and gone for good; but it is not.


August 2, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
9. Cousin Vinnie wrote:

Few people acknowledge the unprecedented nature of the thesis advanced by Bp Atkinson and the “global warming” crowd.  It is not remarkable that there is global warming.  That has happened dozens, if not hundreds, of times before.  But they are telling us that for the first time in the history of the universe, it is now happening because of human activity.

It seems to me that the burden of proof of such an unprecedented occurrence would be rather high, and nobody can really explain it to layman (who, after all, are responsible for policy), except to insist that all the illuminati agree.

August 2, 2:47 pm | [comment link]
10. Mike Bertaut wrote:

As a South Louisiana sceptic, living in the path of floods and hurricanes for my entire life, you would get the idea that the whole Human-Caused Global Warming thing would really sound a note of truth for me.
Reality could not be further from the truth.
I keep thinking of my friends at the Hurricane Center, who build climate models for a living, who say things like “When we hit 50% accuracy on predicting what the weather will be tomorrow, we feel pretty good about it.”
These are the guys who want to make ECONOMIC policy for the rest of us because of the weather? 

August 2, 2:50 pm | [comment link]
11. DonGander wrote:

11. Matt Thompson wrote:

“As usual, I am deeply saddened by the tone of discussion among commenters on this blog regarding climate change.”

We should all be saddended that there is so little Science in the discussion of climate change. I’m not sure what I wrote that disheartens you as I agree with all your points. As I wrote previously, “too many assertions of truth.”

Too little science.


August 3, 9:28 am | [comment link]
12. Mike Bertaut wrote:

My skepticism on HUMAN-induced climate change is motivated by two factors:

1.) Dissatisfaction with the wide range of opinions by learned groups on the actual contribution of humanity to the changes—of course I believe in climate change.  An active and variable climate has been the life-blood of this planet since its inception.  Climate change is not something in my mind up for debate.  The climate is of course changing, as it always has, as it always will.  Humanity’s influence on that cycle is something I remain unconvinced of.

2). Abject fear of what the politicians of the world will do if they reach consensus that humanity is the cause.  Climate change is the worst kind of political hammer, it has all the elements of fear-mongering, deathly outcomes, and apocalypse.  And not just a hammer, its the story that cannot die, its a dragon that can never be disproven.  Since all the horrible effects are 50 or 100 years in the future, but we must “DO SOMETHING” before that time approaches, or we will reach a fail-safe point, we will be giving policy makers of the world UNIMAGINABLE POWER.  Just consider this:

If the world’s leaders decided tomorrow that climate change is a reality, humans are causing it, and they all got together to “do” something about it, what does that imply?

It implies that we give them “scientific” carte blanche to completely alter the development path of 3rd World Countries to 2nd or 1st world.  If not stop their development completely.

It implies that we give them “scientific” carte blanche to alter the world’s economy forever.  To completely change the lives of 6 billion people to suit the new “reality”.  And of course, if the need is so dire, the direst sort of punishments will be required.  The death penalty for violating environmental rules?  Imprisonment? Wars fought because of excess carbon creation?  This is no sci-fi novel, if you give leaders this sort of power, and a holy crusade to justify their actions, then where will it stop? 

These are the things I envision if the world reaches consensus on global warming caused by CO2 emmissions. 

Frankly, I’d rather a 10 foot rise in sea level and we all move to higher ground, than to give them that sort of power.  And so would you, you just don’t know it yet.

Think about it…..mrb

August 3, 10:30 am | [comment link]
13. DonGander wrote:

Matt, I do share the blame in the misunderstanding. This medium (blogs) is not very good for discussing many things, including scientific debate.

I do readily admit that discussion undoubtedly exists. But the computer models that are used as “evidence” do not, as far as I have read and heard, do not include H2O factors. In fact, from what I understand, there are no existant algorithums that are capable of adequately introducing H2O factors into the computer models.

I’m sorry that I do not have the link to the website that explains this.

From your related article the statement “It (H2O) is the strongest greenhouse gas, contributing 36% to 66% to the overall effect for vapor alone, 66% to 85% when you include clouds.” is very, very telling. Far more than the Sun, CO2, or any other source, the albedo of the earth effects the temperature of the earth more than any other factor. It is not included in the computer models, nor can it be at this point.


August 3, 10:48 am | [comment link]
14. DonGander wrote:

Post Script:

“I am detecting in nearly all comments a note of political defensiveness”

I certainly hope so. As other bloggers have so aptly metioned, fear is a horrible motivator for good political movements. Global warming is full of driven fear; act NOW before the evidence is in. In such an environment it is entirely appropriate to be politically defensive.


August 3, 10:53 am | [comment link]
15. libraryjim wrote:

Any time one side in a ‘scientific discussion’ declares the matter ‘closed’ and attempts to shut down any further dissent, then I am suspicious.  Science needs dissent to thrive.  True scientific inquiry needs the converse side if only to have one side strengthened by full out research.  If a hypothesis cannot be adequately disproven then that makes it stronger. 

However, in this case, the ‘converse’ side (natural cycle theory) has strong evidence to dis-prove the human cause (anthropogenic) theory, which is sending Al Gore and his minions into convulsions to shut down any further debate. The main problem for open debate is that the anthropogenic side is not allowing the natural cycle side to be published in peer-reviewed journals, so they can say “See? All studies support US!”.  (It is really ceasing to be much of a problem, however, thanks to the internet and independent talk shows who host natural cycle scientists to allow their view to be presented.)

August 3, 11:54 am | [comment link]

However, it has been extremely difficult, contrary to Jim’s [17] point, to find competing hypotheses that are of equal or surpassing strength to the anthropogenic hypothesis. —Matt Thompson

Which anthropogenic hypothesis?

August 6, 3:11 pm | [comment link]

... that our activities, principally those associated with the emission of very large annual delivery of fossil carbon to the atmosphere leading to significant and well-documented increases in atmospheric greenhouse gases, are the primary reason that surface air temperatures have increased as much as they have since the pre-industrial era.

It is this hypothesis that the IPCC-AR4 agreed was probable at a minimum confidence of 90%. 

I don’t see how a meaningful probability can be ascribed to such a mathematically vague   hypothesis.  For example,  what is meant by the term temperature rise in this setting?  The very notion seems to be a function   of the measurement period.  Two scientists using different time intervals will in general obtain different averages for the temperature at a point.

August 6, 4:09 pm | [comment link]
18. Mike Bertaut wrote:

My, oh my.  It’s already started.  Convinced now that they have a “mandate from heaven” to change American’s energy behavior, thanks to their belief in “man made global warming” new taxes and new laws have already been introduced. 
So sad.  In the long run, a ten foot rise in sea level is going to look appealing….
New Energy Taxes

August 6, 4:25 pm | [comment link]
19. libraryjim wrote:

The recent IPCC summary of the report now states that the worst case scenario envisions a 17 INCH rise in sea levels due to melting ice. Of course, the July 16 Washington Post stated that it is impossible scientifically to predict sea levels over a given time.  But that gets ignored, right, because it doesn’t fit the script?

Of course this doesn’t take into account the fact that gray whales are having trouble finding food due to THICKENING ice in the Arctic?

I saved the story, but the link seems to have been taken down! If someone finds an active link to a news source (not a blog), please let me know:

Thick Arctic ice blamed for Piedras Blancas low gray whale count
AP on Bakersfield Californian | 6/6/07 | AP

Thick Arctic ice may be the reason for a precipitous drop in this spring’s two-month gray whale count at Point Piedras Blancas.

Only 115 gray whale calves were counted this year by scientists at Point Piedras Blancas, down dramatically from the 285 counted last year. It’s the fourth-lowest count in the 14-year history of the cetacean census.

The most gray whale calves ever counted at the point was 456 in 2004, just three years after the low of 87 in 2001.

By counting calves swimming alongside their mothers, scientists said the health of the entire population can be assessed.

Counts fluctuate for a variety of reasons, including variations in populations and weather changes.

Wayne Perryman, of the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service, said he had expected fewer calves this year because of thick ice in the Arctic seas, the gray whale’s summer feeding grounds. The thick ice makes it more difficult for cows to eat enough to support a successful pregnancy.

Gray whales migrate up to 5,400 miles from rich Alaskan feeding grounds to Baja California lagoons every winter, where females give birth and breed. In spring, they migrate back to Alaska with their calves.

Perryman predicted the count would go back up next year because the Arctic ice is reported to be thinner and is receding earlier and faster.

Gosh! global warming is GOOD for Gray Whales!

August 6, 4:48 pm | [comment link]

First, list all potential causes of climate change. Then, measure their potential magnitudes and define confidence intervals for those magnitudes using statistical and physical models calibrated against historical data.

This procedure is not rigorous in any mathematical sense.  Many variables (e.g. temperature of a non homogeneous fluid body) are ordinal  —which means that they cannot   be averaged in a   physically meaning way.  In fact,  the same set of temperature readings can be consistent both with global warming and global cooling depending on the temperature scale employed.  Even if a scale is fixed, an increase in average temperature can easily shown to be consistent with cooling (net heat loss) in a non homogeneous body such as the earth.  In any case, whether or not there has been an increase in the average   of some quantity over time depends on the starting time from which that average is computed.  This is an arbitrary  decision,  which makes the alleged phenomenon observer dependent.

August 6, 5:50 pm | [comment link]
21. libraryjim wrote:

If the Whale story does prove “fishy” (FYI whales are mammals), not a problem.  As I said, the site I originally found the AP link on has taken it down. 

So let’s talk more of ice:
Here’s an article that shows ice has been receeding and expanding in Alaska for hundreds of years before the industrial revolution:

The basket is one of many artifacts scientists are finding on ice patches — dying fields of snow and ice that are too small to flow like glaciers. These ice patches, located in the mountains of Alaska and Canada, are shrinking to reveal at their edges arrow shafts, barbed antler points, and other items that usually decompose before archaeologists can find them.

They’ve found the same type of artifacts in Switzerland as well, under glaciers, showing a pattern of expanding and receeding of the glaciers over thousands of years. climate change is nothing new, and nothing humans are causing.  The evidence just isn’t there to support anthropogenic GW. And many scientists from all disciplines are saying so, more every day, from every country.

Just because I like the story:
When I was looking for the other story on Gray Whales, I came across another story on gray whales trapped by THICK Arctic ice recently:

Time Magazine and Far North Science (which is the source of the Alaskan story above).  This quote in particular from Time gave me a chuckle:
By the time the Soviet ships joined Operation Breakthrough, enthusiasm for the $1 million-plus project had waned. Scientists openly criticized the rescue mission. During a discussion of whether using dynamite to break up the ice would damage the whales’ hearing, biologist Ron Morris of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration joked, “We’d probably fit them with hearing aids and eyeglasses.”

The Eskimos, too, tired of the occupation army. “They are all making a big deal out of nature’s way of feeding other animals,” said local whaler Bob Aiken.   wink

August 6, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
22. libraryjim wrote:

I forgot to mention, the story of the whales trapped was from 1988, not ‘recently’.  The word “recently” was left over from a cut and paste.  I hope that did not cause any mis-communications.

August 6, 6:07 pm | [comment link]

“Philip, it’s not a purely mathematical exercise—it involves analysis of the physical phenomena,
including global inhomogeneities in heating, mass and energy transport ...”

Matt — Whereas I regard statistics, classical mechanics and continuum thermomechanics etc. as legitimate branches of mathematics,  I am not assuming that this is a purely mathematical exercise. The statement that in a non homogeneous body such as the earth an increase in average temperature can   be consistent with cooling (net heat loss)  is not a purely mathematical statement.  Neither is the statement that temperature is an ordinal random variable.  Both statements derive (via mathematics) from the laws of classical thermodynamics.  However,  from the second statement, it follows as a corollary that the notion of a mean global surface temperature is physically meaningless. Thus,  alleged rises in this parameter should be treated with caution.

August 6, 8:21 pm | [comment link]

It is this hypothesis that the IPCC-AR4 agreed was probable at a minimum confidence of 90%. Some have reported that the Committee agreed on an even higher confidence level (between 95% and 99%), but that political pressure from big, future emitters, like China, forced them to adopt a lower number.

This is very revealing!  So the significance level may have been changed by a factor of 10 (from   0.01 to 0.1).  The mere fact that political pressure could alter the   result of a computation of such major scientific import, and   by so much,  suggests that plenty of hand waving,  subjective assumptions and “slack” parameters must have entered   into the computations.  After all, solid scientific and mathematical claims are not so easily subject to such   political manipulation which would easily be detected.  Thus, in reality, we can have no confidence even in the confidence interval.

August 6, 9:40 pm | [comment link]
25. libraryjim wrote:


After all, solid scientific and mathematical claims are not so easily subject to such political manipulation which would easily be detected.  Thus, in reality, we can have no confidence even in the confidence interval.

Oh, well said, well spotted! Well done!  I’d like to point out to that some of the scientists reported to be ‘in agreement’ with the IPCC report are asking (and in one case suing) to have their names removed, stating that while they agree with the section they worked on, this does not indicate agreement with the completed report.

August 6, 11:46 pm | [comment link]

Hi Matt:

I’ll try to address the issues you raise but one at a time.  First a clarification.  You ask in post 34: 

“Are you arguing that heat is not the same thing as temperature? No argument here. One can heat a parcel of air while it is expanding and still observe a drop in temperature. Basic thermodynamics, as you say, but hardly a consideration left by the wayside in climate science. (What I want to know, and asked you about before, is if you know of a concrete, non-abstract example in which this is found to be generally important in climate science.) ”

I did not argue that heat is not the same as temperature —  this is obvious.  Thus your question is moot.  Moreover,  since I did not argue what you claimed,  the meaning of the word “this” in   your request for   “a concrete, non-abstract example…  ”  is ambiguous.  What you actually requested in post 31 was along the lines that   I be more specific about my concern and perhaps cite an example. 

Actually, I have a great many concerns which hopefully someone can clarify for me.  Who knows, I might even become a global warming reappraiser!  Let me start with the first issue which I raised in post 21 concerning confidence intervals. 

The IPPC’s   “anthropogenic hypothesis”  is a statement   concerning an increase in temperature.  I presume that the term “temperature” refers to   mean global surface temperature. 

Let me introduce my concern by means of the following “thought experiment”:   
Suppose that a sequence of independent, identically distributed measurements X_1,  X_2,  ...,  X_n is made of the length μ of a rigid rod, then, by the central limit theorem, the sampling distribution of   the mean of   X_1,  X_2,  ...,  X_n   converges to a normal distribution with mean equal to the common mean of the sample distributions.  In the absence of bias, the mean of the sample distribution will be the exact length μ.  Moreover, the variance of the data can be compared to that expected from knowledge of experimental errors inherent in the details of the measurement process. Unexpected discrepancies can then be evaluated and possible model weaknesses analyzed or unexpected sources of error sought. 

Application of this standard measurement procedure to, for example, the temperature measurement of a homogeneous fluid body in a constant state would quite likely raise few concerns. On the other hand, the surface of the earth is not a homogeneous fluid body in a constant state. If a number of different observers each using different sets of surface points make estimates of the global mean surface temperature, then the sequence of values so obtained does not represent a list of independent, identically distributed random variables and the hypotheses of the central limit theorem do not hold.  Rather, this situation is like unto a set of observers, ignorant of the precepts of special relativity, traveling at different, but high, velocities relative to each other, and attempting to ascribe a length to a rigid rod which does not lie in their respective rest frames. Since the model hypothesis of a Galilean spacetime is false, the very concept of length is observer dependent and thus physically meaningless.  Differences in length obtained by different observers cannot be attributed merely to technical difficulties connected with the measuring process but rather to the incorrect model assumption of a Galilean spacetime. Due to the relativity of simultaneity, different observers are, in reality, measuring the separations between different pairs of spacetime events. Discrepancies obtained by such observers cannot in this case be ascribed to experimental error which can in principle be overcome by sufficient ingenuity; rather, their explanation requires a fundamental change of philosophy and the recognition that each is measuring a different parameter. In this case, knowledge of the experimental errors involved and of the discrepancies between observers would hopefully lead to a change in the model hypothesis and the discovery of special relativity.  This, in turn, would enable the observers to transform their measurements to the rest frame of the rod, thereby yielding consistent estimates of the true rest length.

Unfortunately,  the measurement of global mean surface temperature is more complex than the measurement of a length and the discrepancy due to different observers measuring different distributions cannot be so easily transformed away.  Various authors   attribute such discrepancy to factors such as an uneven distribution of weather stations.  This attribution implicitly assumes that such errors are amenable to correction by more uniform sampling or, perhaps, by better “statistical data processing”.  However, the onus is on the researcher to prove that this is the case. One can   construct (non physical) temperature distributions whose mean cannot be estimated without bias by any finite sample.  Does there exist a proof that the earth’s temperature distribution does not share this pathology?

August 7, 9:41 pm | [comment link]
27. libraryjim wrote:

Well, one scientist who asked for his name to be removed was because he says the IPCC doesn’t understand nor try to understand how the Earth works geologically speaking:

We are doomed, say climate change scientists associated with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that is organizing most of the climate change research occurring in the world today. Carbon dioxide from man-made sources rises to the atmosphere and then stays there for 50, 100, or even 200 years. This unprecedented buildup of CO2 then traps heat that would otherwise escape our atmosphere, threatening us all.

“This is nonsense,” says Tom V. Segalstad, head of the Geological Museum at the University of Oslo and formerly an expert reviewer with the same IPCC. He laments the paucity of geologic knowledge among IPCC scientists—a knowledge that is central to understanding climate change, in his view, since geologic processes ultimately determine the level of atmospheric CO2.

“The IPCC needs a lesson in geology to avoid making fundamental mistakes,” he says. “Most leading geologists, throughout the world, know that the IPCC’s view of Earth processes are implausible if not impossible.”
[W]ith the advent of IPCC-influenced science, the length of time that carbon stays in the atmosphere became controversial. Climate change scientists began creating carbon cycle models to explain what they thought must be an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These computer models calculated a long life for carbon dioxide.

Amazingly, the hypothetical results from climate models have trumped the real world measurements of carbon dioxide’s longevity in the atmosphere. Those who claim that CO2 lasts decades or centuries have no such measurements or other physical evidence to support their claims.

Neither can they demonstrate that the various forms of measurement are erroneous.

“They don’t even try,” says Prof. Segalstad. “They simply dismiss evidence that is, for all intents and purposes, irrefutable. Instead, they substitute their faith, constructing a kind of science fiction or fantasy world in the process.”

Also in the real world, Prof. Segalstad’s isotope mass balance calculations—a standard technique in science—show that if CO2 in the atmosphere had a lifetime of 50 to 200 years, as claimed by IPCC scientists, the atmosphere would necessarily have half of its current CO2 mass. Because this is a nonsensical outcome, the IPCC model postulates that half of the CO2 must be hiding somewhere, in “a missing sink.” Many studies have sought this missing sink—a Holy Grail of climate science research—without success.

“It is a search for a mythical CO2 sink to explain an immeasurable CO2 lifetime to fit a hypothetical CO2 computer model that purports to show that an impossible amount of fossil fuel burning is heating the atmosphere,” Prof. Segalstad concludes.  “It is all a fiction.”

National Post (Canada) July 7, 2007

Another site I found gave this information:
The U.S.-based National Registry Environmental Professionals, an accrediting organization whose 12,000 environmental practitioners have standing with U.S. government agencies such Environmental Protection Agency Department Energy, a November, 2006, survey of its members, found only 59 percent responded that current climactic activity exceeding norms calibrated by over 100 years of weather data collection can be, in large part, attributed to human activity. Only 39% make their priority curbing carbon emissions, and 71% believe the increase of hurricanes to be part of a larger natural cycle and not, for the most part, attributable to human activity.

August 8, 2:39 pm | [comment link]
28. DonGander wrote:

Reading the above CO2 debate is somewhat entertaining to me and does have educational value. I actually learned a couple of things. But what is the relevance of that particular debate? There currently is NO means to measure the cloud cover on the entire earth - which is necessary for determining the most significant heat gain/loss. In order to make this information useful in computer models, we would need this information over several hundred years. Such, of course, is unavailable.

As I said, all this does have a little entertainment value.


August 8, 2:58 pm | [comment link]
29. DonGander wrote:

From what I have seen those pictures are worth slightly more than zip. They don’t “see” fog/haze or thin upper-atmosphere haze very well. The albedo question is still salient and even IF the pictures from space are useful, we don’t have much of a history of them (for computer models and predictions), do we?

Have a good time with your brother. Please do not spend time woring about Global Warming.


August 8, 4:30 pm | [comment link]
30. libraryjim wrote:

I just heard about this and will look for confirmation later on, but apparently, NASA made a mistake in interpretation of data, and 1998 is no longer the hottest year on record.  That distinction now belongs to 1934!  More later, when I get off work and can post links.  grin

August 9, 3:26 pm | [comment link]

38.  Matt Thompson   wrote :

“First, I should point out that no one is observing anything in the climate system at relativistic time, space, or energy scales.”

However, as an ANALOGY the above relativistic thought experiment does highlight one (of many) difficulties present in the measurement of average temperature.  I apologize if my previous post is not clear in this respect and will attempt to refine the idea.

Let us imagine once more that two observers, with distinct but very large relative velocity, make repeated measurements on the length of the same rigid rod so as to obtain confidence intervals. Assume also that both observers take the utmost possible care to avoid bias in their measurement techniques. After a certain number of measurements their respective confidence intervals for the length will inevitably be disjoint even though both have avoided any procedural bias. This is a simple consequence of the central limit theorem and the fact that, due to relativistic length dilation, the two observers are in effect sampling from distributions with distinct means. Suppose now that one of the observers attempts to reduce this discrepancy by taking additional measurements. No matter how careful he is, or how many measurements are made, the most that can be achieved, will be a reduction in the size of his confidence interval. The problem of disjoint intervals will not disappear. Compare this to a situation in which two climatologists independently measure the average temperature in some region, using different set of sample points, and find a similar unreconcilable discrepancy between their respective results. Since all climatologists are honest (see bottom two lines of post 38), both will dutifully increase the number of sample points in order to obtain, say, a more uniform or, perhaps, less biased sample. Notwithstanding their undoubted honesty, their best efforts and good intentions are doomed to failure. As in the relativistic situation, the distributions which each climatologist samples are distinct, and so the discrepancy cannot be so eliminated by further measurement. In reality, the temperature distribution over the surface of the earth, at any moment, is quite irregular and it seems improbable that two distinct sets of points on the surface taken at different times (or even at the same time) yield samples from the same temperature distribution. In our relativistic analogy, the discrepancy is easily corrected by a transformation to the rest frame of the rod. In the case of temperature, it would seem that one is compelled to make ad hoc assumptions concerning the regularity of the global temperature distribution. Unfortunately, distinct ad hoc assumptions translate into distinct confidence intervals for the average temperature leading to disputes —which seems to have happened (see post 33).

  Even to obtain a confidence interval for the (time) average temperature at a single point, assumptions have to be made concerning the temporal regularity of the temperature at the said point. In fact, the very existence an average temperature underlying the observed temporal fluctuations has to be assumed —:after all, not every random variable has a mean. Thus, for the sake of simplicity, let us eliminate this difficulty from the discussion by considering the best possible scenario of a sphere whose surface temperature distribution is constant in time. Unfortunately, even in this case there exist temperature distributions   which are intractable to any conceivable sampling procedure. Consider, for example, the case of a distribution which is equal to a constant c over the surface of a sphere except for a single point P at which the temperature is a delta function of weight normalized so that the average temperature over the sphere is exactly equal to β + c where β is non zero. Then any uniform random sample of points on the sphere would, with probability 1, fail to contain the point P and so yield a sample mean temperature equal to c. Thus, the sample mean would differ from the true mean by the “bias” β which could be any pre-prescribed large number. Infinitely many variants of this construction are possible. Moreover, weaker (physical) versions could be constructed without recourse to the theory of distributions. As is admitted (in line 3 of post 38), there possibly exists no proof that the earth’s temperature distribution does not share this pathology. On the surface of the earth an infinity of sharp temperature jumps occur in such places as the boundaries of icebergs floating in warmer water, at shorelines which are ever shifting and changing and, indeed, at the border of every shadow. Moreover, when temperature is measured, there exists the eminently practical problem of deciding how much weight to allocate to sample points which might be so unlucky as to fall in such hostile and inconvenient places as on an iceberg in the middle of the ocean or at the center of a volcano. The human decisions necessary in such circumstances inevitably lead to a degree of arbitrariness which might well explain the “observed” 0.6 degree C per century (or whatever it is) temperature increase. Incidently, two icebergs of the same surface area may have considerably different volumes and, hence, correspondingly different thermodynamic contributions but that is another issue entirely.

  In summary,  there exists the possibility that discrepancies in the measurement of global mean surface temperature may be   measure-theoretic in origin,  and,  therefore not amenable to correction by, say,  increases   in sample size and quality.  Such bias is intrinsic to the situation and independent of the measurements of even the most conscientious climatologist.  A finite sample of points   cannot,  reliably estimate a distribution of unknown form over a set of positive measure.  Similarly,  surface measurements cannot reliably estimate an unknown volume distribution.  I do not,  for one second,  doubt that climatologists have spent much time carefully discussing these issues and refining their sampling procedures.  What I would like to know is whether or not any conclusion has been reached which does not rely on an ad hoc model assumption?  If the answer is no, then we may well be justified in allowing the Chinese or other interested parties to adjust the level of significance by a factor of 10.

August 9, 3:32 pm | [comment link]
32. libraryjim wrote:

I sent this in to the local newspaper, they chose not to run it.  I would like to think it was because of length, but I doubt it. (Another case of “pretend there is no dissent”.)

Dear Editor,

Re: Bill Berlow’s editorial on “Reason for hope: the Governor gets it” (Tallahassee Democrat, July 13, 2007 on climate change confrence in Miami, FL), I disagree. Governor Crist has been convinced, yes, but is the view he now holds correct?

On the subject of global warming, contrary to Al Gore’s assertion, the debate is far from over.  In fact, it hasn’t even started, due to the fact that the pro-human [i.e., anthropogenic] cause theorists will not allow debate to take place!  Many articles have been posted on the internet stating that global warming/climate change is a naturally occurring cycle, as evidenced by cooling and warming periods throughout the history of the planet, and increased solar temperatures.  Why on the internet? Because the ‘human cause theorists’ control the major peer-reviewed journals and outlets and will not allow these articles to be published!

The scientists who disagree with ‘human cause’ are all well respected, and cover a wide range of scientific fields from climatology to geology to meteorology and physics, and include scientists such as Richard Lindzen, David Deming, S. Fred Singer, Bjorn Lomborg, Philip Stott, Reid Bryson, Henrik Svensmark, Khabibullo Ismailovich Abdusamatov, Claude Allègre and many more. 

Yet when their views become known, they are derided by the press which questions their character and accuses them of accepting money from ‘Big Oil’ to cause trouble.  Some are threatened with the loss of their jobs or positions.  Fairly recently, Delaware State Climatologist David R. Legates was told by Governor Ruth Minner to either agree with the human cause theory of Global warming or resign his position.

Another case in point: last December, Dr. Heidi Cullen of the Weather Channel stated that any meteorologist who disagreed that humans are causing Global warming should lose their certification.  Other scientists have come forth with similar stories when their research conflicts with the current “consensus” hypothesis.

The question of the cause of global warming should be asked in the public arena. Debate should be encouraged (not stifled) before any socialistic-styled measures are enacted that take away the freedoms of the American people.

James Elliott

August 11, 11:26 am | [comment link]
33. DonGander wrote:

Mr. Elliot:

My suggestion, to be published in popular press, is to write at no more than a 6th grade level. I’m not kidding. Most newspapers will publish nothing that has any word that is not in common parlence at the lowest level. Your article fails in that area.

A very good editorial, by the way. It would quite likely be published in “New Criterion” or by any other publisher intent on raising the standard of literacy and knowlege in their readership.

I would guess, in fact your articles states, the other reasons it remains unprinted.


August 11, 11:43 am | [comment link]
34. DonGander wrote:


In Wisconsin we have for weather history the high and low temperatures for the day and precipitation for the day for about 150 years. These items can be entered into a computer and processed by some program. More recently the inputs have included average dew point, cloud cover (percentage of sunshine), windspeed, and more. This is for the city that I live in. There are right now no such measurements for much of the earth. There definitely is no HISTORY of cloud cover at all. In 1956 it was very very hot in Wisconsin. Was this caused by the lack of cloud cover or for some other reason? If we can’t deduce that for 1956 how the beans are we supposed to get usable info into a computer to analyse long-term climate change?

The current usage of pictures from space are not, as far as I have been told at the U Wisconsin, usable at this time though they may shortly be usable (A satellite in Earth/Sun Synchronous orbit would solve the problem). I firmly believe that they should be made usable, one way or the other. But even if right now they are usable it is no help , once again, in proccessing the probabilities of long-term climate change.

By the way, I do believe that the climate IS changing but I do not know if it is a man-made change nor if such change has an overall harm or benefit to Man. I have no axe to grind. I am interested in the truth.


August 11, 5:03 pm | [comment link]
35. libraryjim wrote:

As I’ve said before, I’ve heard your parroting before.  I really don’t intend to be engaging YOU in the discussion, but the others here.  The fact that some of my comments overlap and hit on some of your points is, well, a coincidence. 

Your arguments don’t matter to me, as I don’t see you presenting anything but the anthropogenic propaganda side.  When you are ready to discuss the FACTS and the ISSUES rather than attack the people (in spite of your assertions to the contrary) then perhaps I may change my mind about listening to your propaganda but I doubt it.


August 11, 11:42 pm | [comment link]

Matt Thompson said:
“Philip [44], you’re still not providing concrete examples of whether the problems you raise are actual problems, or just the kind of 0.001% error that we all ignore.”

Your request is again ambiguous and itself raises more questions.  Problem for whom?  Can a problem be a   “non actual” problem?  The answers to your request clearly vary according to the “problem”.  For example,  one concrete issue   I raised was the “problem”  of   independent observers   reconciling their respective data sets and the non uniqueness inherent in the treatment of the discrepancies.  Is this an “actual”  problem?  Certainly.  According to CCSP Synthesis and Assessment Report on Tropospheric temperature trends: 

“There remain differences between independently estimated temperature trends for the surface, troposphere and lower stratosphere, and differences between the observed changes and model simulations, that are, as yet, not fully understood…”

“...The main lesson
learned from this Report is that great difficulties in identifying and removing non-climatic
influences from upper-air observations have led
to a very large spread in trend estimates… “

Is this an “ignorable” problem?

That will depend on much argumentation concerning the possible causes and magnitude of the discrepancy —a technical question for climatologists.  One thing that cannot be applied in this context is the concept of percentage error.  Temperature is an ordinal variable so talk of percentage errors,  as in your comment,  can be meaningless in this type of analysis. 
I leave you with a “non actual”  problem which has some features in common with an actual problem.

Imagine a spherical planet, which we shall   call X,  that has only two weather stations.  Suppose that for many centuries
the two stations both record a stable temperature of 16° X.  Suppose that in a certain year one station records an average temperature of 0° X and the other 36° X yielding a mean of 18° X     Do you consider   this to be   evidence of global warming on the planet X?  Do you consider   this to be   evidence of an increase in mean global surface temperature on the planet X?  If so,  at what level of significance?  What assumptions are needed to calculate a level of significance?

August 12, 12:26 pm | [comment link]

Matt:  For convenience my comments on your post 58 are in square brackets. 

Philip, I don’t want to imagine a spherical planet. I want to imagine a real planet,  and I want to understand how a real planet works.
[Einstein often used such thought experiments to shed light upon complicated situations. ] 

You are looking for “mathematical proofs” ...
[Did I ask you for a proof?  No, I merely posed an interesting question and asked what could be meaningfully said.]

but I fear you are looking for something that no one in the debate considers important to the matter at hand.
[In my experience, universally negative statements of this form   are frequently false.]

Climate science is necessarily empirical and guided by our physical understanding of how the world works.
[ All sciences are necessarily empirical. But most sciences like classical mechanics do not eschew mathematical proof when it is possible.]

Hundreds of studies have been done to see how good local measurements of temperature actually are, and whether they provide a sufficient proxy for the spatial and temporal patterns of temperature that we can safely say are found not on Planet X, but on this planet.
[And as the reference in post 57 shows,  there are many open issues.]

Climate science does not employ the logic of pure mathematics (contrary to your wish), but the logic of engineering. An engineer does not look for absolute precision, but for metrics to fall within certain tolerances, often with a safety margin.
[Math, science   and engineering   are based on Aristotelian logic.  I do hope that Climate Science has not abandoned the standard logic.]

Similarly, climate scientists look for effects that are large and of first order, and while they fuss with the 0.001% issues as a matter of thoroughness, the broad picture is painted with the colors of 30%, 40% and 50% issues.
[It is physically meaningless to talk about percentages when talking about temperature. It is an ordinal variable.]

Since temperature trends are broadly smooth over the surface of the earth at the spatial scale of relevant climate processes (i.e., tens and hundreds of miles), your issues are ultimately of the 0.001% variety.
[This seems tautological.  They are smooth after considerable mathematical processing and filtering to make them smooth.].

The bottom line is that, yes, not all is fully understood. But to claim from the outside that because some aspect of a process (such some of the observed anomalies in upper and lower atmospheric temperature trends) is not yet understood signifies a deep pathology in the discipline as a whole is the novice’s mistake. Grad students get swept up in such fancies, only to later realize that they’re fussing over 0.001% issues.
But notice that I did not insult climatology by saying that there is a deep pathology in the discipline   so your bottom line is both moot and unwarranted. 

August 12, 4:39 pm | [comment link]
38. libraryjim wrote:

You responded to a post that said:

Grad students get swept up in such fancies, only to later realize that they’re fussing over 0.001% issues.

Which is interesting, because an earlier news post on T1:9 included this note about the basis of a policy change for an entire towship in Pennsylvania:

Global warming falls within the county’s general purview of health, safety and general welfare because the potential effects include increased rainfall and flooding, as well as extremely hot days, Nelson said. 
Armed with a graduate student’s thesis about changes Montgomery County can make, a task force appointed in January is expected to report back on its recommendations by the end of the year. It will set emissions targets for 2012, 2017 and 2025

So it appears that a Grad student’s research is much more inflential than that of respected scientists who hold for the natural cycle theories of climate change.  And so it goes, politics trumps science in this (non-)debate.

Jim Elliott <><

August 12, 5:19 pm | [comment link]
39. libraryjim wrote:

philip, many people on the forum point to the diminishing polar ice caps on Mars to show the natural cycle theory has merits.  Here’s an interesting link from National Geographic online:

Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says
Kate Ravilious
for National Geographic News
February 28, 2007

Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet’s recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human-induced—cause, according to one scientist’s controversial theory.

Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

“The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.

Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun’s heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.

Mars and Earth, for instance, have experienced periodic ice ages throughout their histories.

“Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov said.

By studying fluctuations in the warmth of the sun, Abdussamatov believes he can see a pattern that fits with the ups and downs in climate we see on Earth and Mars.

Of course, they can’t allow a report on just this opinion: The article goes on to cite the theory of human caused global warming, pointing out that Adbussamatov is a ‘rogue sceintist’ for his views, and then concludes:

Abdussamatov remains contrarian, however, suggesting that the sun holds something quite different in store.

“The solar irradiance began to drop in the 1990s, and a minimum will be reached by approximately 2040,” Abdussamatov said. “It will cause a steep cooling of the climate on Earth in 15 to 20 years.”

If this were an article on a scientist ‘proving’ human cause, there would be no mention of contrary viewpoints.  So while I appreciate that this has been mentioned AT ALL, it is further evidence that the debate is NOT being handled fairly and even-handedly.


August 12, 11:01 pm | [comment link]
40. libraryjim wrote:

Sorry, my blockquotes got fouled up.

August 12, 11:05 pm | [comment link]
41. libraryjim wrote:

In April of this year, 60 prominent scientists wrote to the Canadian Prime Minister declaring that “Observational evidence does not support today’s computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future…Significant [scientific] advances have been made since the [Kyoto] protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary.”


Senator Inhofe then went on to quote an excerpt directly from the IPCC guidelines. The “Principles Governing IPCC Work” clearly states in its Appendix A that the scientific work will be altered to conform to the media-hyped Summary for Policymakers:

Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter.

Senator Inhofe’s criticism has been echoed by the U.K.’s Lord Nigel Lawson - former Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Member of the House of Lords Committee that reviewed the IPCC process. Lawson has called for the abolishment of the U.N.’s IPCC.

“I believe the IPCC process is so flawed, and the institution, it has to be said, so closed to reason, that it would be far better to thank it for the work it has done, close it down, and transfer all future international collaboration on the issue of climate change…” Lawson said.

Link here
(The site has links to other dissenters as well as video links of interviews with those quoted above and many other on the site)

August 12, 11:19 pm | [comment link]

  Matt Thompson [61] wrote: 
“First, one can talk of percentages when speaking of the causal components of a fixed effect. For instance, one could say that 25% of the increase in temperature over the last 100 years is due to an increase in incoming solar radiation.”

On the other hand, in a recent paper,  Does a Global Temperature Exist? J. Non-Equil. Thermod. 32, 1-27 (2007),  (, Essex, McKitrick,  and Andresen: claim to show   that the mean temperature is not physical, and that there may be many valid ways of computing a mean which will give different trends.  If they are correct in this assertion, then trying to apportion percentage causes to,  say, an increase in average global temperature, does not seem to make physical sense. 

The above remark also applies to your later comment

“ is well known that temperature gradients over the spatial scales relevant to climate processes are, in fact, quite smooth, in part because those very same climate processes integrate the effect of local variation in temperature. In other words, it’s not the computer that does the smoothing, but the climate itself.”

August 12, 11:22 pm | [comment link]
43. libraryjim wrote:

Philip, and speaking of doctoral students getting it right:

Check out the paper by Wm. Robert Johnston refuting the human cause theory.

he points out:

Problems with the Hypothesis. The global warming hypothesis is not scientifically verified. Critics of the hypothesis argue:

*About 60% of the temperature increase mentioned above occurred before 1940, but only 33% of the increase in carbon dioxide concentration had occurred by then. This indicates that increased carbon dioxide was not the cause of the temperature increase.

*The observed temperature rise is not accelerating: temperatures increased from 1880 to 1940, dropped slightly from 1940 to 1980, and have by some reports increased since then.

*The reported increase since 1980 is not confirmed by satellites or air-borne measurements and may result from weather stations being close to urban areas. In fact, there is specific evidence that the reports of higher temperatures since 1980 by some sources reflect dishonest science.

*Changes in global temperature are better correlated with changes in solar activity. Solar magnetic flux shows trends similar to that for temperatures from 1880 to the present.

*Observations contradict the computer model predictions, indicating that the computer models are significantly exaggerating any potential warming. Also, the computer models are predicting smaller temperature increases than they did ten years ago, as they have become more sophisticated.

*The various predicted disastrous results of a temperature increase are doubtful, with different studies often making opposite predictions. Historically, however, civilizations have prospered in times of warmer climate. Various studies also indicate that plant life is prospering from the increased carbon dioxide levels.

Dr. Johnstone goes on to post more papers on global warming here eacho of which goes into more detail on various aspects of the flaws of the anthropogenic theory.

Another site by John Daly points out that the medieval warming period had temperatures higher than ours today:

This graph asserts that temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period were higher than those of today (as suggested by the opening lines to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer), while it was much cooler during the Little Ice Age (as suggested by John King). Historical records from all over Europe, and Greenland attest to the reality of both events, and their profound impact on human society. For example, the colonisation of Greenland by the Vikings early in the millennium was only possible because of the medieval warmth. During the Little Ice Age, the Viking colonies in Greenland collapsed, while the River Thames in London often froze over, resulting in frequent `frost fairs’ being held on the river ice.

The dating of these two climatic events depends to some extent on what one regards as `warm’ and `cold’ in comparison with present temperatures, but the following dating approximates these events -

1) `Medieval Warm Period’ (AD 700 - 1300)
2) `Sporer Minimum’ cool period (AD 1300 - 1500)
3) Brief climatic warming (AD 1500 - 1560)
4) `Little Ice Age’ (`Maunder Minimum’) (AD 1560 - 1830)
5) Brief warmer period (AD 1830 - 1870)
6) Brief cool period (AD 1870 - 1910)
7) 20th century warm period (AD 1910 - 2000)

As to what caused these two major climatic events, the most probable candidate is the variable sun, particularly with respect to the Little Ice Age. This is because we have direct observations of sunspot counts going back to 1600 AD, which allows us to compare variations in the sun with variations to global climate. Fig.2 shows how the sun has changed over time, the radiation being greatest during a sunspot maximum and least during a sunspot minimum, both recurring on an 11-year cycle.(the figures are, of course, on the website)

August 12, 11:32 pm | [comment link]
44. libraryjim wrote:

I was talking to Philip, if you don’t mind.

August 12, 11:36 pm | [comment link]

  Matt Thompson [70] wrote: “But I think we’re confusing something important here—no one I know is saying that mean temperature is a “real” thing, something that everyone everywhere experiences the same at all times. I pointed this out back in [34] about average height. Mean temperature is a diagnostic, not a prognostic.”

I never said (nor do I believe) “that mean temperature is a “real” thing, something that everyone everywhere experiences the same at all times.” Nor did Essex, McKitrick, and Andresen, nor indeed did anyone else that I know make such a claim.  Indeed, I do not understand what you mean by “real” in this context.  It does follow,  from the axioms of mechanics (for a Galilean space time), that a mean height   transforms   to a mean height under the allowed changes of length scale.  However,  nothing in the axioms of classical thermodynamics permits us to prove the corresponding statement for temperature. This is the essence of the result by Essex et al.  Whether or not “mean temperature is a diagnostic” is too vague and context laden a statement to assign a truth value. For example it is often false that mean temperature is a diagnostic of heating or cooling.  Take ice at 0°C and heat it to form water at 0°C.  There no change in the average temperature so the heating can not be diagnosed.

You say that “actual climate scientists with actual climate science jobs have honest rebuttals with actual arguments to the paper.

Actually, the blog sources you quote have more in common with a lynch mob than an appraisal by referees in a scientific journal.  On the one hand you   assert that the paper of Essex et al. has been rebutted and at the same time you quote Benestad who claims,  providing no references,  that “these aspects are well known.”. Thus the critics appear to contradict each other.  There may well be non essential errors in the paper by Essex et al.,  but none that I can find which refutes their   main thesis.

August 14, 10:53 am | [comment link]

Jim [67].  Thanks for providing the references.  They make some very interesting observations.

August 14, 11:02 am | [comment link]
47. libraryjim wrote:

You might also want to look at the site Is Global Warming real? and follow the link at the end of this article to the article Global Warming: a Chilling Perspective.

Jim Elliott <><

August 14, 1:46 pm | [comment link]

  Matt Thompson [70] wrote: “Sometimes critics of an idea will raise criticisms that aren’t relevant. For instance, you point out that heating through a phase change doesn’t change the temperature.”

This does seem relevant in the context of your remark [70]  that “mean temperature is a diagnostic, not a prognostic.” In fact, if you had not made a scientifically ambiguous claim,  I would not have wasted your time and mine citing a simple counterexample.  I was never under the delusion, as you assume, that climatologists were unaware of utterly trivial facts about the melting of ice.  I did not even mention   the concept of phase change.  This was inserted by you to add credibility to your insinuation.  I merely confined myself to providing a simple   counterexample.  Many other   examples could have been given, but this would have been unnecessary.  In any case, your error is not relevant to the discussion so let’s move on.

You also state that:

“Essex paper has been rebutted by showing that their points were either irrelevant to the discussion at hand or “well-known” and thus not really controversial”.

In fact, the crucial point for climatology seems to be the claim that,  from a set of temperature readings alone, one can   deduce neither an increase nor a decrease in mean global temperature.  Has this point really been rebutted?  If it has, then your next remark: 

“it is up to Essex et al.  to show that calculating the mean values differently will actually affect the results.”

is redundant.  After all, if Essex et al. do succeed in this task, would this not rebut the rebuttal?”

The following statements can be found in the references you cited in [70]

“When I first read this paper I thought it was a joke”

“I believe it is only by going to totally stupid definitions of “average” that they are going to see any significant differences in global temperature trends”

“Their fundamental error is that they wrote the paper.”

“You can find details of procedure in Ref 1 and 2 of the Essex, et al. paper. Let us examine why this is done”.  Hey, who really cares why this is done?”

Do you really believe that scientific etiquette requires the authors of a published paper,  or anyone, to pay attention to hostile criticism from blog posts such as the above?  A natural way of handling an alleged scientific error is   a polite letter to the editorial board of the   journal   outlining   the problem and requesting either a correction, a refutation. or a retraction as the case warrants.  Perhaps customs are different in Climatology. 

Rather than waiting for Essex et al. to show that calculating the mean values differently will actually affect the results,  let us consider a proof of an analogous result that is embedded in my question at the end of post [57].  In the light of your previously stated aversion to my thought experiment I will avoid discussing hypothetical spherical planets and alter the situation slightly. 

Historians of science inform us that in the early days of “climatology”,  a wide variety of different thermometric fluids were in use.  Imagine that two early climatologists simultaneously measure the temperature at their respective locations and obtain an arithmetic mean of   16°X where X is the temperature scale defined by their common thermometric liquid.  Suppose that at a given time later,    both take new simultaneous measurements;  one obtaining   0°X and the other 36°X for a mean of 18°X.  In this case the arithmetic mean has increased by 2°X.  Imagine   that many years later, a third climatologist then transforms   these measurements to °C. Suppose (temporarily) that the change of scale between °X and °C is given by the square root function which is continuous and strictly increasing. The initial average temperature reading of 16°X converts to 4°X.  The final readings of 0°X and 36°X convert respectively to 0°C and   6°C yielding an arithmetic mean of 3°C —a drop of 1°C.  This shows that the same data set can be compatible with   an increase in the arithmetic mean on one temperature scale and a decrease on another.  Moreover, there is nothing special here about the square root function. One can find infinitely many   strictly increasing continuous functions, and compatible with the axioms of classical thermodynamics,  which would illustrate the same behavior.  Thus,  to obtain the results of Essex at el., at least in classical thermodynamics,  it is not even necessary to consider what the critics cited above call stupid definitions of “average”.  Even the   arithmetic mean is subject to this pathology when non affine changes of scale are considered.  Thus,  Essex et al.‘s paper appears to be correct on this important point and the above example provides another refutation of the universality of your statement [70] that “mean temperature is a diagnostic”.

August 14, 11:29 pm | [comment link]

Matt:  You say [78] that:

“With them, I agree that no such temperature exists; it’s an index. But their error is to solipsistically “give up” on the idea of ever generating an index for change in global temperature.”

If one fixes a temperature scale (say Kelvin) for all time, then one certainly has an index of mean global surface ““Kelvin temperature”  average.  As long as everyone sticks to that scale,  or to scales in an affine relationship with that scale (as is done in practice), then no problems   arise. On that point I agree with you.  However, the fact that mean temperature does not behave the same way as mean length should not be dismissed as a “theoretical” irrelevance”  It does impose the constraint that during non linear smoothing and filtering operations on temperature data,    all transformations used must preserve the mean with respect to the chosen fixed scale. I will presume, for the sake of argument, that this issue is handled correctly.  However, as I appointed out in [28], even if a scale is fixed an increase in average temperature can   be consistent with cooling (net heat loss) in a non homogeneous body such as the earth.  Thus our agreed upon fixed Kelvin index is not diagnostic of heating or cooling   without supplementation from other data.  The simple example in [72] is a case in point. 

Let me address your point [76] that small variations in temperature on an absolute scale (i.e., Kelvin) can be treated as linearly scalable, much as length scales can.  In the case of length, this fact follows from a continuity assumption and the fact that the length of a concatenation of two bodies is the sum of the lengths.  In classical thermodynamics,  there is no analogous concatenation operation for temperature and so there is no basis for this assumption.  It is not an argument that “this has been done so for at least a hundred years”.

August 16, 12:21 pm | [comment link]

Matt:  Note that by the term “linearly scaleable” in my previous post I mean “necessarily linear scaleable” in the sense that scales of length must transform linearly, whereas, in the case of temperature,  the class of allowable scale changes includes strictly increasing continuous functions which are non linear.  There is no disagreement if you are merely saying that a linear or affine transformation   is a valid change of temperature scale.

August 16, 1:21 pm | [comment link]
51. libraryjim wrote:

Interesting bit of news here:

The man behind the Web site Climateaudit has forced NASA to admit it was wrong when it said that 1998 was the hottest year on record. Steve McIntyre had to reverse engineer NASA’s figures — because the agency refused to give him the formula it used to make the claim.

And McIntyre found out NASA had made a serious mistake. NASA eventually agreed, and now says 1934 was the hottest year — followed by 1998 — and 1921. In fact — five of the hottest 10 years on record occurred before World War II.

The New List:

August 16, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
52. libraryjim wrote:

oops, just noticed that I posted that up at #43.  Sorry for the duplication. grin

August 16, 11:08 pm | [comment link]
53. libraryjim wrote:

By the way, here’s a link to Mr. McIntyre’s article refuting the realclimate article stating that the error makes no difference.

August 16, 11:11 pm | [comment link]
54. libraryjim wrote:

If I were to respond to Matt I would say, debate being waged on the internet is vastly different from a debate being waged in peer-reviewed journals, which for some people who call themselves “scientists” are the only medium that counts for ‘legitimate publication’ of materials. 

The media has either ignored or devoted a meager back section paragraph to the story of warmest years, crouched in lines such as “but of course this makes no difference, and LEGITIMATE scientists dismiss any relevance”.  In fact, the media in general villifies the ‘deniers’ as they term them.  Some, like Matt in previous posts on old T1:9 keep insisting that ‘deniers’ have ties to “Big Oil” or are not real scientists or are not qualified to comment on the subject because they are not the RIGHT KIND of scientist.  That’s not debate, that’s dismissal.

Shall we quote Al Gore from “Earth in the Balance”?
“Those who disagree with our conclusions need to shut up and let us get on with saving the earth” or his quote on many news programs:  “The debate is over”

Newsweek compares those who dissent from the mythical consensus with those who denied the reality of the holocaust.

NBC’s Ann Thompson recently declared: The debate is no longer over society’s role in global warming, it is a matter of degrees.

a recent exchange on CNN (July 20, Situation Room) went this way:

J.C. WATTS: I can’t talk for John McCain, but I can talk for me. I don’t believe the Earth is melting because of carbon emissions.

MILES O’BRIEN: Well, you’re not paying attention to the science, J.C. You’re definitely not paying attention.

WATTS: You’ve got science on both sides of this.

O’BRIEN: No, you don’t. No, you don’t. The scientific debate is over, J.C., we’re done.

WATTS: It’s your position.

O’BRIEN: No, no, no. That’s not, that’s science. That is science. The science is out there.

WATTS: It’s political science. It’s political science.

so I ask again: WHAT DEBATE? only insults and putdowns by pro-anthro. theorists and media ‘puppets’ against pro-natural cycle theorists.

Of course there are bright spots:

Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear” continues to check out at the library.  The end notes and Bibliography is an invaluable source of natural cause research gathered in one place (regardless of what one thinks of Dr. Crichton’s qualifications, he has certainly done his research and given proof of that research).

Robert J. Samuelson stated of the Newsweek article:

But the overriding reality seems almost un-American: we simply don’t have a solution for this problem. As we debate it, journalists should resist the temptation to portray global warming as a morality tale-as NEWSWEEK did-in which anyone who questions its gravity or proposed solutions may be ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge. Dissent is, or should be, the lifeblood of a free society.

But these are opinions not heard much in the public arena, and certainly not in ‘peer-reviewed journals’.  For one thing, it just doesn’t sell papers!  Hysteria and crisis does. And it challenges the prevailing reseach-dollar driven opinions.

I like what one blogger on NewsBusters said: The debate is over. Man-made global warming IS real, in that it was all made up by men.

But since I’m not responding to Matt, I guess it just doesn’t matter.

August 17, 1:06 am | [comment link]
55. libraryjim wrote:

hmmm, maybe the debate IS growing, and people are waking up to the lie of ‘consensus’.

Check out the list of anti-anthro. studies on NewsBusters .  Quite an eyefull.  But of course our favorite on site ‘scientist’ will in his own unrelenting way, find nits to pick on them all, and discredit the sources as biased, unqualified, irrelevant and moronic.

August 17, 1:12 am | [comment link]
56. libraryjim wrote:

Again with the put-downs and YOU are asking “how old are we”?  Look in the mirror next time you want to insult someone, Matt.

August 17, 1:19 am | [comment link]
57. libraryjim wrote:

My apologies to all for allowing Matt to goad me into carrying the thread into unwarranted territory.  Matt and I have a friendly/ adversarial relationship on this board.  While I agree with him on some issues, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is not one of them. 

There are two ways of making noise with an empty oil drum: one is a child beating on the drum with a baseball bat.  It may be rhythmic, but very few people can stand it for a long while without losing their temper!  The other is to turn the drum into a steel drum, and make music with it.  Most people like hearing the results.  To me, Matt is like the former.  Eventually I just lose it and respond.

I honestly don’t know why AGW proponents have to vilify the sources for natural cycle Global warming (NCGW).  But Matt does this well, as his comment on any web site that doesn’t agree with his view (see above posting on NewsBusters!).  I also don’t know why Al Gore, Sheryl Crow, and Leonardo DiCaprio are acceptable spokespersons for AGW, but Dr. Michael Crichton, Rush Limbaugh and Senator James Inhofe are not acceptable spokespersons for NCGW.  None of the above (expept perhaps for Dr. Crichton) are known for doing extensive scientific research, and only gather in one place the arguments for their side.  Yet the mention of the extensive research done by the NCGW people and gathered on sites such as NewsBusters, and the AGW side goes ballistic.  And that is enough to push my buttons, evidentially.

As to the press and AGW’s assertion that no further debate is needed, a simple Google search for global warming debate over will show quote after quote designed to silence debate, not encourage it. Sites quoted by Matt (such as RealClimate) only serve to re-inforce this opinion.

I am NOT a scientist.  I am a Reference Librarian.  As such, I gather information from a multitude of sources.  My own research on the pros and cons of AGW have convinced me that a)Global Warming/Climate Change is happening and b) humans have very little if anything to do with it.  I am not quick to dismiss a source because of a lack of ‘peer-reviewing’.  IMO, peer-reviewed journals exist for a very small, elite club within a scientific (or other) discipline.  And as I’ve pointed out before, that includes excluding those papers that don’t agree with the publishers/members views.  Which makes finding acceptable sources more difficult, but not impossible.

Again, I apologize for my outburst. I will post no more on this thread.

Jim Elliott <><

August 17, 11:13 am | [comment link]
58. libraryjim wrote:

Oh, one more thing (putting on “Columbo” raincoat)
Yes I have had to deal with the complexities of sorting through journals to find peer-reviewed journals.  Believe it or not, Library and Information Studies journals also have ‘peer-reviewed’ journals and such.  Most of my papers for class work required sources from Peer-reviewed sources. 

Frankly, the quality of writing and research for the peer-reviewed journals was not any better nor worse than that found in non-peer-reviewed sources.

Now, that’s it.  Really.  I mean it.  No more.

August 17, 11:52 am | [comment link]

From a mathematical perspective some conclusions in the paper of Essex et al. do seem to me unsurprising.  The fact that the direction of a temperature trend can change if a geometric mean rather than an arithmetic mean is used is a simple consequence of the arithmetic-geometric mean inequality.  Actually, a change to the geometric mean is equivalent to retaining the arithmetic mean and making a logarithmic change of temperature scale   because, under such a scale change,  the arithmetic mean maps to the geometric mean. I would conjecture that all changes of mean can be similarly viewed as mere changes of temperature scale, in which case,  the statement that all means are equally valid would   follow from the ordinality of temperature   and the fact that the class of admissible changes of temperature scale includes strictly increasing, differentiable functions such as the logarithm. 

However, I am somewhat worried by the same philosophical issue that appears to bother Essex at el.  Imagine now that statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics had never been discovered and that all thermometric scales instead were based on a variety of “designer” fluids.  There might be no reason under these circumstances to prefer one thermometer over another and different scales including the Kelvin scale would have equal status.  Moreover, there is no physical result,  expressible in the Kelvin scale,  that could not be re-expressed (via a bijective scale change) in terms one of these other scales.  In this sense at least, Kelvin is not “all powerful” but, rather, when compared to other scales “equally powerful”.  In this non existent but possible world, different scales would indeed yield different temperature trends and even trends of opposing signs.  In the real world, we “privilege”  — please excuse this horrible “postmodernism”—  the Kelvin scale but that decision in itself is not unique. Even in the context of statistical mechanics no error could result if another scale were chosen and all formulae rewritten to compensate.  So is all of this really irrelevant in the real world of actual climate change?  Let us look at what the critics say.

Many of the critics   who claim that the paper of   Essex et al.  contains well known and trivial results,  themselves make questionable claims.  For example, in an article at  it is claimed that the work of Essex et al. is

“irrelevant in the context of a climate because CO2 affects all surface temperatures on Earth.”

Obviously, if temperatures rose everywhere there would be a temperature rise on all valid scales. However, anthropongenic CO2 does not effect   temperatures at all points equally.  Since the system is inhomogeneous, some temperatures can be expected to rise and some fall. Even if we ignore the slow diffusion and mixing of CO2 and assume that temperatures rise everywhere simultaneously,  but at distinct rates, then different (non affinely related)  temperature scales will still yield different rates of increase for the mean. 

The same article also states that:

“Temperature itself can be inferred directly from several physical laws, such as the ideal gas law, first law of thermodynamics and the Stefan-Boltzmann law, so it’s not the temperature itself which is ‘unphysical’  “

All this statement seems to say is that there exist a variety of thermometers —which is obvious.  This argument does not disprove the claim that average surface temperature has no physical meaning.  In fact,  Essex et al. did not, as far as I know,  claim that temperature at a point was unphysical or could not be inferred by a variety of devices or proxies. 

Other critics claim (without any proof) that temperature is an interval, as opposed to ordinal variable. 
Although this same statement can be found in many statistics texts, none I can find   offers anything like a   proof.  Thus the possibility exists that this objection is based upon a non existent theorem   —at least, a theorem which was not in my thermodynamics text 40 years ago.

Yet another critic in the   same page states that:

” Ultimately, it is energy that counts. Any global measure that is consistent with the trends in either atmospheric, ocean or atmosphere-ocean energy is potentially useful in describing what is happening to these parts of the Earth system. Thermodynamic temperature determined as simple weighted averages dealing with heat capacities and masses works as well as anything else for this.”

I agree that energy is what really counts but the last sentence is false. A single net heating can manifest itself in many different manners. For example, as an increase in volume isothermally or as an increase in temperature at constant volume or as a combination of volume and temperature change.  Temperature averages,  therefore, cannot on there own determine energy uniquely, even using a “weighted average dealing with heat capacities and masses”.  More generally,  0.6°K per century increase in surface temperature does not on its own imply a net heating,  even when a fixed temperature scale such as Kelvin is used.

It is ironic that critics of the paper of Essex et al.,  who claim it is both trivial and unoriginal,  themselves make questionable and   ambiguous claims.

August 18, 6:09 pm | [comment link]
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